Azure SQL offers up a world of benefits that can be captured by consumers if implemented correctly. It will not solve all your problems, but it can solve quite a few of them. When speaking to clients I often run into misconceptions as to what Azure SQL can really do. Let us look at a few of these to help eliminate any confusion.
You can scale easier and faster
Let us face it, I am old. I have been around the block in the IT realm for many years. I distinctly remember the days where scaling server hardware was a multi-month process that usually resulted in the fact that the resulting scaled hardware was already out of date by the time the process was finished. With the introduction of cloud providers, the ability to scale vertically or horizontally can usually be accomplished within a few clicks of the mouse. Often, once initiated, the scaling process is completed within minutes instead of months. This is multiple orders of magnitude better than the method of having to procure hardware for such needs.
The added benefit of this scaling ability is that you can then scale down when needed to help save on costs. Just like scaling up or out, this is accomplished with a few mouse clicks and a few minutes of your time.
It is not going to fix your performance issues
If you currently have performance issues with your existing infrastructure, Azure SQL is not going to necessarily solve your problem. Yes, you can hide the issue with faster and better hardware, but really the issue is still going to exist, and you need to deal with it. Furthermore, moving to Azure SQL could introduce additional issues if the underlying performance issue is not addressed before hand. Make sure to look at your current workloads and address any performance issues you might find before migrating to the cloud. Furthermore, ensure that you understand the available service tiers that are offered for the Azure SQL products. By doing so, you’ll help guarantee that your workloads have enough compute resources to run as optimal as possible.
You still must have a DR plan
If you have ever seen me present on Azure SQL, I’m quite certain you’ve heard me mention that one of the biggest mistakes you can do when moving to any cloud provider is not having a DR plan in place. There are a multitude of ways to ensure you have a proper disaster recovery strategy in place regardless of which Azure SQL product you are using. Platform as a Service (Azure SQL Database or SQL Managed Instance) offers automatic database backups which solves one DR issue for you out of the gate. PaaS also offers geo-replication and automatic failover groups for additional disaster recovery solutions which are easily implemented with a few clicks of the mouse.
When working with SQL Server on an Azure Virtual machine (which is Infrastructure as a Service), you can perform database backups through native SQL Server backups or tools like Azure Backup.
Keep in mind that high availability is baked into the Azure service at every turn. However, high availability does not equal disaster recovery and even cloud providers such as Azure do incur outages that can affect your production workloads. Make sure to implement a disaster recovery strategy and furthermore, practice it.
It could save you money
When implemented correctly, Azure SQL could indeed save you money in the long run. However, it all depends on what your workloads and data volume look like. For example, due to the ease of scalability Azure SQL offers (even when scaling virtual machines), secondary replicas of your data could be at a lower service tier to minimize costs. In the event a failover needs to occur you could then scale the resource to a higher performing service tier to ensure workload compute requirements are met. Azure SQL Database offers a serverless tier that provides the ability for the database to be paused. When the database pauses, you will not be charged for any compute consumption. This is a great resource for unpredictable workloads.
Saving costs in any cloud provider implies knowing what options are available as well as continued evaluation of which options would best suit your needs.
It is just SQL
Azure SQL is not magical quite honestly. It really is just the same SQL engine you are used to with on-premises deployments. The real difference is how you engage with the product and sometimes that can be scary if you are not used to it. As a self-proclaimed die-hard database administrator, it was daunting for me when I started to learn how Azure SQL would fit into modern day workloads and potential help save organizations money. In the end, though, it’s the same product that many of us have been using for years.
In this blog post I’ve covered five things to know about Azure SQL. It is a powerful product that can help transform your own data ecosystem into a more capable platform to serve your customers for years to come. Cloud is definitely not a fad and is here to stay. Make sure that you expand your horizons and look upward because that’s where the market is going.
If you aren’t looking at Azure SQL currently, what are you waiting for? Just do it.
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